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Adam LeBor Education. (2013) 'Tower of Basel The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World.' New.

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Us 9, Europe 8, Imf 5, Switzerland 4, China 4, Adam 3, London 3, England 3, America 3, New York 3, Harry Dexter 2, Hitler 2, United Nations 2, U.n. 2, Alexander 2, Lincoln 2, Russia 2, Berlin 2, California 2, France 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Adam LeBor  Education.  (2013) 'Tower of Basel The  
   Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World.' New.  

    July 7, 2013
    10:00 - 11:01pm EDT  

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that philosophy the series was start almost ten years ago by steve who is now in pittsburgh on the council. bringing together a diverse group of people across the political affiliations across the careers, across the nationalities to come together in a round table and talk about global issues in a bay that is relevant to everyone so we are delighted to continue that series. and we are especially delighted to have with us tonight adam lebor, who is not only a journalist for the economist and the times of london monocle and other places that he's also an accomplished novelist. and i'm guessing it's probably not coincident that one of his office is called hitler's secret banker's that has a lot to do with the look we are talking about today, "basel," which is a
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fantastic title. i love that. so be ready to tee up your questions. we're delighted that c-span, booktv is here with us tonight. so if you can do us a favor if you have a question, wait for the mic to come around so we can
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hear you. with that said, adam, welcome. we are very, very happy to have you here. i'm particularly looking forward to what you have to say. i'm a finance geek. >> thank you for having me here. and also c-span coming tout film us. i appreciate it. i'm going start a bit by stalk -- talking in general talk you through the history of the bank. then you can kind of unwhere it came from, why it's set up. what it does today. what is the bank for international settlement? i always say it's the most important bank in the world you have probably never heard of. most people have never heard of a bis apart from people who are dealing with the more technical side of international finance or banking. the bis was set up in 1930 as
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part of a young plan. it's history reaches back to the end of the first world war. it after the germans lost, they were punished by being forced to pay. it was a lot of arguments about them. how much they would pay? how long would they go on for? and what happened was the allied power agree that through the young plan the bis would be set up to collect and administer and manage the payments. it's set. it offer an obscure basis. it was sort of a big geopolitical question at the time the real reason it was set up so the bank of france, the bank of england and the federal reserve and so on could have a place to meet that was supremely protected and legally
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inviolable. what does it mean? it meanses that the bis, is an international organization. it's also a congressional bank. a unique hybrid in the world. it's the world's oldest global financial constitution. it was set up before the imf and the world bank. as it commercial bank, it's going to it's got a mission and a duty to make the profit. it's got all the same protection almost all of the united nations or the international monetary fund. from the moment it was set up by an international treaty, the bis premise was almost extraterritorial. the swiss authority have no jurisdiction over it. same as the american embassy, or the british embassy. it has that protection. during the 1930s it became a way for the central bankers to discuss it away from the
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politician and the reporters. in fact, during the '30s the bank was a so secretive, there was a "new york times" out to do a piece on the bis. he got to the building and said after the director's meeting, he wasn't even allowed to the room because of the space was so protected. so sacred. i think it's interesting. what it tells us, if you ever wondered how we got this place where all the people from the imf and the world bank whatever flying around the world, for example. how did we get here? these unelected technocrats are telling elected government what to do. it started a the the bis, the birthplace of the global financial tech no karat. in the 19 0u it did some good things. it organized some of the first bailout for spain, hungry, and
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austria. again, what was interesting the bailouts were being organized bit bis and the central bankers meeting there. i don't quite now how governments could do that, there was no kind of political input. of it the bankers deciding where is the money going, how much are they going to get? you see the continue continuity of that nowadays. the two people who set up to to work the bis was at -- and the president of the bank. and very close friends. they were really the two most powerful central bankers at the time. they come to new york, make a speech, the doom and gloom, come to new york, make a speech. everything is going well. the market would go up. these were the market movers.
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then it takes a more sinister term. during the 1930s he continued serving as the rice bank under hitler. and generally agreed to have been absolutely crucial for the german economic of the 1930s that helped keep the nazis in power and in business. he was much more than -- he became -- he was more powerful than central bankers nowadays. he was controlling monetary policy. he was the guy running the nazi economy. this is why he was put on trial for war crimes right after the war. and so the bis had a stronger german presence. other german bankers that joined the bis were a guy -- the president of the rice bank. the vice president where the
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crucial meetings took place. and who was there chief executive officer which was the way nazi industrial and chemical. and they ran it a concentration camp where also during the war they became an important parking lot of the nazi economy. it was kind of an inspiration to the world in ways. it was important for the germans that the vice president of the rice bank was also bis director said the bis is the only real foreign bank of -- branch of the bank. who is running the bis during the war? this is where the story gets interesting. the president of the bank from 1940 to 1946 was aman thomas. thomas was an american. an american banker in london,
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was secialtly, as far as i can see was chosen by them to take over the bank. he arrived in 1940. and the manager of the bank was frenchman, and the deputy manager of the bank was a german called -- -- with the nazi party the general secretary was italian and the economic adviser was a weed. it was in neutral switzerland. it became the main venue for the covert channel between the allies and the nazi about planning. for example, 1942 the bank economic adviser went to america to have meetings. obviously the thinking was we
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have to set up a new financial system. he comes back, what does he do? go to we berlin to tell them everything he's learned. we must think that it was predictable he was going to do that. he was knew neutral. he has a connection to the germans. it's known that thomas was and agent or asset. at this time the american wartime intelligence chief in europe was based. and he was and he would share information with him. the general manager of the bank was an asset i found some amazing documents in the osr archives where thomas is saying she's speaking to german
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industrialists and saying, look, the war is over in 1944 and coming in. if you are helpful, we'll guarantee the profit. at this time, there's a lot of talk of -- german industry breaking up the giant steel and chemical firms. he is saying behind the scenes, don't worry, you are okay with us. what does it mean? it means that while american and british soldiers are landing on the beaches of normandy and walking in to machine gunfire and being run down in the thousand, thomas is sitting doing deals with german industrialists and with the bank not with some individual idea. he had the idea he's going to do with the knowledge of the state department and the office for strategic services.
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which is why at the time, his main enemy, really, the main enemy at the time was the treasury secretary and the deputy harry dexter white. hated the bis and said that henry said the bis is a symbol of nazi instrumentality. and harry dexter white said, you know, fighting the germans while he's doing business with them which is absolutely true. by the end of the war, the bis accepted a substantial amount of nazi gold and did at love foreign exchange deals with the bank. it was a thoroughly comprised institution. but getting comprised with the bank of england and treasury and everybody else. and britain -- there was a lot of pressure to shut the bank down. we don't want this institution anymore.
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what ended up happening is the resolution past saying the bank should be shut down at the earlier possible moment. when was that? no date was set. the bank survived. one of the bis is brilliant of doing, it has been since it was born in the 1930 reinventing itself. after the war, there was a sense, there's an argument for this. you have to get the global economy up and running. we have to start making and selling thing. countries have to start trading. we need somewhere to be the to call focal point of this. t only a year old or whatever and the world bank. the bis is there's. it has a lot of experience. they have contacts all over the world. the bis survived in the next phase over the next few decades, basically until the 1990s the bis hosted all of the prepare
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work on technical and secretarial work for the preparation of the euro. that's how it kind of reinvented i.t. this starts in the late 1940s with a lot of obscure things like the european monetary corporation fund and the european central bank. they met at bis and place is important here. because say that were based there, they were managed there and the bis did a banking. so it became a kind of to call point for much of the planning especially with the euro. in the 1990s, lit 1980. the -- he set up the committee to work out monetary union ie, the euro. where was it based? the politicians wanted it based
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in brussels. it was it's very clever and anymoreble institution. one of the key people of the commission was alexander which was known as the father of the euro. what was his day job in the manager of the bis. after the committee passed the greed and the plan was going forward with the introduction of the euro. they set up the european monetary institute it was based at the bis and the boss was alexander. and it stayed there until 1994 it moves to frankfurt and become the european central bank which was another international bank which is also not very transparent. very influential.
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you can see through the decades the germans finish the 1932 the bis has no reason to exist. it makes itself for the center for the bailout and second world war and closed down. you can't close down you need a post war for global economy. and the euro, nowadays, the bis is important for two things. every two months just as in the case on the decades on the central bank, the key central bankers of the world meet to discuss monetary policy. it's crucial during the financial crisis. i interviewed king who gave me a good interview for my book. he said that's the place where we meet and discussion policy options and what can be done and not tone. and the bis is hosting a game. -- which is absolutely crucial for commercial bank not central
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banks. that's based at the bis. several other committees are based a the the bis. more obscure committees like the markets committee, and the financial stability board as well which is going to be important. it's the new people say it's the fourth pillar of the global football system after -- financial system and the imf and the bis because it's coordinated central moin tar bank and regulators. they want good things there. they, you know, they don't want bad things for us. they want the stable global economy. they want central banks that don't go bust. they want currency that is stable. but i think it should be a -- [inaudible]
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that's a great kickoff. one of the things that struck me in the book. ♪ if anybody else has phones. make sure they are on vibrant. but what struck me is you talk a little bit in the book how everybody said that nobody saw 2007 and 2008 coming. the bank of international settlement collecting some of the precious report they came out some of them, you know, quite damning ♪ in the financial markets. but at the same time they saw what was coming and didn't do anything. you talk about political pressures. but i would love to see you expand a little bit more on that. what could they have done if they wanted to. and why didn't people listen? >> well, it's true.
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the bis ever sin it was set up had a extremely research department. it reaches back to -- every year they bring out an annual report which they started out at forty or fifty pages. they run to a couple of hundred. they are full of information about the global economy and global finance. and at love technical stuff about the market. and these reports compiled by, you know, extremely professional people. and in the early the mid 2000 they were one of the spots there was too much money around here. and it's not properly controlled and not being properly regulated. and we're warning you that this could end badly. they didn't say it will. they were one of the first. that's one of the interesting things about them perhaps because being in switzerland the
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banking culture because of their own banking operations is very conservative and careful. they don't need to take risks because they are the bank for central bank and, you know, they have a triple diamond star credit rating. and so anything you put in there is going make money basically. they are cautious and arguing against inflation and too much money in the money supply. but, yeah, they issued these warnings, and the central banks didn't listen to them. perhaps if they had done, things might have worked out circhtly. also you can say another cause of the global financial crisis is many and complex. they did certainly they were warning about there's too much money slashing around in the american monetary the mortgage market, the whole freddie mac affair. they were on a case on that.
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they know what is going on. >> the ore thing that struck me. you are very critical of the secrecy of the bank, the lack of transparency, the lack of accountability, and could you talk about a bit more about what you think the implications of that today. >> yes. >> what are the costs we are paying for that? >> the bank was set up in 1930, i talk about a little bit in the beginning how it was so secretive, and, you know, the journalists that the reports couldn't even look in the room where the directors met. it carries on now with the central bank is meeting twofer months for these. they fly on sunday and stay through tuesday. no germans were allowed in the building at that time. my criticism of the bank secrecy is that we don't know who
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attended the meetings and we don't know what what was discussed and we don't know what kind of themes are being raised. these are public service. we are paying for the plane fares. we should be told you know what are the generally theme of discussion. who was there? whats is the kind of feeling and the mood music of the moment? and the bank says, oh, central bank said we need a place to meet in secret. if you put everything on the record and nobody will put it on record. they'll put a camera in on youtube and nobody will say a word. the central bank is like you need to change this. they give you a ridiculous snare yes -- scenario. you need to talk in private. that's fair enough. they scrolled a press conference after the meetings, they could
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release the minutes, you know, not detailed minutes but the feeling of the meeting, you know, this or that. they could tell us who was there. they could make a step toward trap participant sincerity. i-- transparency. i think that's important. among most people the feeling of international finance how it's run is run by the guys in suits. that jet in and tell countries so you to do this or that. where is the mandate? if you look now, even the imf is telling george osborn that's too much austerity and thinking we have it slightly wrong in greece if you cut the country to the bone it's not going to recover. everyone is going to have no money to reinvigorate the economy. okay. the bis isn't issuing demands like that. it's part of the, you know,
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global structure of global finance. i think it should change. the sculpture should change. and the interesting thing about the federal reserve is, you know, for example every two weeks the market committee release the minute of the previous meetings. if you tie in to google, federal reserve, bis meeting, it will direct you to the federal reserve website. it will tell you which official is at the bis meeting. what meetings they're attending. where they are hour by hour. it tells you everything apart from what hotel they are in and what room for reason of their own secure i it. the federal release hasn't collapsed yen and neither has the bis. there's room for improving transparency. in the way of making more of that happen. are there any other countries that are that transparent as the fed is? could individual efforts by
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everybody to replicate what they are doing could it break it loose? >> it could. the bank of england releases some information as well. but it was pretty solid that we don't want to be release the information about the meetings. it's a juggling act. powerful people meeting in secret are not going say i'll tell you everything we talked about. pressure is being put on them. it's happening. t a kind of, you know, it's a very pressure. terrorist a shift in about institutions around the world on social media and what happened in the arab spring and the occupy movement. people are demanding accountability nowadays. i feel the bis needs to adapt to that. >> i want to open the discussion to the whole room. just a housekeeping reminder, if
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you could wait for the microphone to come to you before you start speaking. and normally we ask everyone to say who they are. since the cameras -- not everybody wants to say that. you can say i'm roger rob rabbit. and i want to mention this. not are all on the record. please feel free, if you would like to tweet using #political forum. and@worldpolicy. do we have a question? >> hi, i'm bill. roughly how many central bankers attend the meetings every two months. also how large is the staff of the bis and where do they come from? >> yeah. good questions. give us a sense of the place. about sixty is the answer. sixty fly in to saturday through
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sunday and met by a fleet of limousines which sweep them off to baa sill which is an hour drive away. say that start on the sunday night with the most important meeting. that's composed of the bis board of directors which is the govern nabs of the federal reserve, and that is the elite meeting where it was the discussions have gone on about coordinating the response to the global financial crisis. that's 18 of them at that. in the fine dooming room on the 18th floor. it has views over france, switzerland and germany. it's very global. the next day there's the global economy meeting. that's thirty country. then you have countries like
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turkey, and the pill finds -- philippines and indonesia that will attend that as well as the fifteen or eighteen there the priest night. -- privacy night. they sit around the table and another fifteen countries are allowed to attend the meetings. i'm not supposed to speak unless it's urgent. country like hungry, for hundred or mas done that. they are allowed to -- they are not allowed to attend. they have to hang around. they to allowed to attend a lunch. they have a fantastic buffet lunch. it's very hire ark call. who counts the federal serve, bank of opening land, the european central bank. of course everyone is a delight
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to each other. the manager -- two or three days and every couple of months and the secretary stuff to app your second question. it's a great place to work. especially if you're at the senior level you have sort of a not diplomatic states but kind of sort of privilege status. and you get paid a lot. it's tax free. so the general manager, i think, perhaps, you know, compared to jpmorgan it's not that much. it's the general manager -- i think $850 euro tax free, which is $1.2 million plus
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allowances. then about 600 people working there from different country. people like working there. there is also a sense of public mission they do good work and provide -- it provides asset management advice for smaller banks and small companies that don't have the extease to do that. there is a sense of the people who work there that it's a global and national institution. it's got a public mission. it's a great place to work. i spent a week in the archive. it was very interesting because while you're in the archives so apart from personnel files and
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that kind of stuff. the file would come up a half hour later. i have it stay in the archive room. i was allowed to go to the washroom or get a cup of coffee. i was not allowed to wander or explore on my own. i was escorted back. very high security there. it's unlike the u.n. as far as i know there's no -- you can't just have it. and that's small thing. that's problem. because it should be open. people should be able to see what they are doing. it's circular. it has long loopy car door. corridor. a lot of brown walls and beige
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furniture. it is very retro. it has kind of a james bondi feel to it. it's an interesting place. >> my name is -- [inaudible] i'm the friend of the world policy institute. what interest in you, tell us about your world view and why you on on a crusade for transparency for the bank of international settlement. >> it started with an earlier book i wrote called "secret bankers" it was an investigative book. it read a bit like a novel. [laughter] of it so gripping. it is an investigative book. it was a book investigating swies banks and nazi gold. if you renner the late 1999s the scandal broke about switzerland and the dirty money sloshing
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around from the send world war. and it was one of several books that came out. i did a chapter on the bis. i thought it was the strangest place. i went there in '98 to the interview the general manager. i said what is this place? overlooking the big road next to it. i thought it was interesting. and you find out about thomas and the idea during the war while people were fighting are if the lives a few miles away, the knowledge of everyone in berlin and london and washington, a channel being kept over i thought it was fascinating. i wrote a book about the united nations with complicity of evil
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which exams to stop again side and the tight is from a u.n. peace keeping report. the own phrase we have been guilty of complicity and evil. i'm interested in the international institution. the idea you step through door and you're not the country anywhere. you're somewhere else. it's fascinating. >> you didn't mention china they are a member. are they? >> china is a member. an important member. the governor attends the committee. in, again, in -- in the 1990s, after the euro was invented. the bis was invented.
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-- directors and theback of belgium and holland with respect to the countries not really, you know, the key players anymore. but they are still on the board. after the euro was invented and the bis was thinking what are we for? what are we going do? they realized they had to become global and global institution. it was absurd in the 1990s it was a china wasn't a member. russia wasn't a member. they quite rapidly. that's one of the things about the bank it reinvents continually. >> two other questions. first of all, how much access did you have in terms of interviews? also, if you can talk a little bit about theback's role in setting the capital requirement
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for commercial banks. >> sure. my reception was mixed, i would say. in the beginning l bank was helpful. i think they assumed that i was a kind of finance, you know, banking specialist that was interested in, you know, very technical questions. after awhile it became clear i was edward was great. he got me all the documents i wanted. the bank's official historian was extreme i are helpful to me. he answered all my e-mail. when i wanted more material about the present day there was a lot of to and fro. i had an e-mail interview with the head of the research department. one of the successors twenty five years, thirty years down
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the road. then they became quite helpful again. i think it was a learning process for them. it was mixed. they did answer some of the questions i requested. they responded they were professional and responded to my inquiry. the second about the -- the root of the committee of banking super vision go back to the 1970s i think. a couple of banks went bust. onen long island. franklin bank, i think. and a german bank. there was a realization of the banks, because of the economy was globalized when the banks went bust, it had to knock
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where else it would be? so, you know, over the years they set up the 8% one, two, three again. it shows you. i don't got technicality in the book. it's no the about that. it shows you how they reinvent themselves again and again and again. it has to be based somewhere. it's unthinkable. >> term of the presence in the future, obviously there's cbilityd issues, for a bank that is say, you know, nobody ever heard of. if nobody's ever heard of it. how likely is it we're going to see enough pressure to make them change? and stirring in "the new york times" over the weekend about
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growing discontent with the in europe and the policy of the ecb and the imf which interestingly has been sort of pressing for us austerity less than some of the organizations. so had it that a sign that there is aen increasing amount of pressure. how likely is that frosh get to the point where we're like like to see real changes? >> yes. i think clearly there a general sense across the world and especially in europe. it's strong in europe. the people can't, you know, tell us what to do anymore. we need accountability and tran parent sincerity. the bank was it's true to some extent it made moves to -- it has a website. you can go on the website. you can download the annual report back to 18930 two or three languages. you can see the list of staff and the work there.
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and the bank has a twitter feed. mostly tweets and news about other central bankers. they have shifted toward that. my position is that, you know, there's much more further to go. i think that it will adjust because if, you know, how do we know what is going to happen in the future by looking in the past and throughout the decades for 70 years. it's a very small constitution. institution. it continually reinvented itself. we have to do that. so i'm sure it will happen nowadays. what i propose that the bank issue a block of share. they set up a foundation. if it's really an institution with a mission in public social
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security as well -- as well as being enormously profitable. they made a billion dollars of profit in tax free. it's not bad. where we can't have an account or the central bank and the start training, bankers in the developing world start reaching out the proactive business people. use some of the profit for philanthropy. they're not particularly helpful. i did a keyword search of the 2012 annual report. no result of charity. i asked them how much do you giveaway? they wouldn't tell me. we support local initiative. it's not really good enough. a lot they say that they do do a
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lot of training for central bankers. 5,000 central bangers a year go there. they will make that change. even when i was dealing with them. they changed. they were helpful at first and release what i was interested in. they were not very helpful. then they became helpful again. these are clever people. they know what is going on. they have great antenna. it they are in the tower block on three borders. they can feel which way the wind is blowing and blowing toward transparency. >> the plane tickets and the officers?
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>> yeah. >> it's a very successful bank. it's very well run. >> do we have another question? >> anyone else? >> who are the shareholders? >> the central bank. i'm sorry, we missed the mic. do that again with the mic. >> who are the shareholders, and. >> the banks. other central banks. and there's an annual general meeting every year where they discuss the way the bank is going and the govern mans of the bank. another thing which we should mention is also that the bank is still very euro centric. you can see the heritage set up in the 1930 essentially by the europeans and by them as well. after the collapse of communism, all the small country like
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estonia, -- the new countries they are emitted. i ended up the population it was something like 16 million people in the small countries. but in africa south africa, nigeria is not a member of the bis. that's kind of amazing that, you know, one of the biggest economy in the world is not a member. pac is not a member. kazakhstan is not a member. in africa, in asia, in central asia, there's big gaps there. i asked why, and they said the central bank has to meet certain standards of govern innocence and democratic transparency. there's questions about economic govern mans in russia, china, and other places. it's changing but slowly. >> are we seeing a dollar dynamic to the imf some of the
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countries that are the not usual suspect are more vocal. >> what i've heard is that in the global economy meetings recently there's been a lot of anger about the meeting and all the money sloshing around the slow interest rates. what that is causing a kind of capital of mobility and capital flight to other countries like in asia, korea, malaysia, they are upset because the money is pouring in to get higher rates. they don't want to. it's distorting the economy. with some of the global economy meetings have been quite -- , i mean, they are polite but very involved decisions going on there. the governor of the central bank of australia actually gave speech saying this. and this is what is being said behind the scenes. definitely a shift, you know, in
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the developing world and away from europe and the west definitely fining their voice. they are more confident. and also the economy some are doing quite well. they look at europe and think what a disaster. and you europeans are telling us what to do. >> it sounds like a bit of an echo of 2007, twaict -- 2008 you get warnings of something that causes problems. i'm having this moment of day have deja vu a were emerging markets and it flew back out. you get the crisis and it's not like it didn't happen before. it seems like with 2007, 2008. here is a big problem that is looming. >> yes. they are not doing anything
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about it. >> no. ultimately however gloabilityized finance is. these are governors of national and central bank and the interest. say that are accountable to the british government or french government and interested in the national economy. there was a lot of anger among other asian countries among japan. countries of countries. so that's the price we pay for living in a world of nation states. >> it seems like there's a balancing between short term and long-term thinking. for example, there wasn't really a -- [inaudible] that mexico has tequila prices. >> not at all. >> there's at real feedback when there's a problem caused by one country. go to the other country and the feedback to the first country. it doesn't seem to be awareness. it's time to do something.
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it's the way the system is set up. the national decisions have very fast global ramifications and consequences which really aren't the concern of people. it's taking decisions on national basis. i think that that is not an argument for the super national government. it's an argument is part of the rough and tumble of the national economy and the global economy. >> some of the bankers that you write about in the book saying, hey, we need more of a global government rather than less. >>. >> chris for? >> i'm [inaudible] how the bis will invest itself in the future. >> i think you'll see some moves -- it partly depend on what the
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pressures are on it. institutions respond to pressures response if the general sense, you know, has no mandate and shouldn't be telling people what to do. and the tech tech know karat are getting getting it wrong. i can imagine down the line they release information about the global economy meetings and become more of an outward looking. and need to be more accountable and depends on the pressures upon them. it's definitely, you know, i live in europe. i know, in europe there's a real sense about this idea.
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the european central bank is an important part. they are kind of connected to it. part of that continues. >> do we have any other questions? >> i know we have number of books that are available here. i'm sure adam would be happy. it. >> very happy. i am here to volunteer him for carpal tunnel. >> thank you. >> i want to thank you for coming out on a dismal night. a particular thanks to adam. we are happy to have him here. his reputation proceeded him. i'm never happier than talking
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about a geeky finance topic as someones who is just as passionate. thank you, again, adam. and thank you to all of you. >> thank you very much. [applause] rich low i are exams the political ideology of abraham lincoln. and how the ideas can apply to today's economic and political landscape. this program lasts about an hour. [applause] i know a thing or two what it's like to be em battled a
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right-wing guy that lives and works in new york city. i used to live in union square in new york, which was the very epicenter of obama mania in '07 and '08. i didn't remember -- i remember on lek night i was up late on foxx at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. i went back home. , i was tired worn out, eitherble, depressed. it was hear union square it was like we won a war. the street were thronged. people were chanted, i think singing. randomly high fiving me. little did they know. whenever i encounter the kind of liberal youth i'm reminded of a reagan story when he was governor in california, at the time when protests oftentimes
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spownt spontaneously out. he was at the meaning of trustees at california. while he was there a demonstration started. a staff wanted to sneak out the bank. he walks through the protesters. gets in his car, and, you know, there is a scruffy, hip-looking type. haven't bathed very recently and start banging on the car and chanting "we are the future ." the story goeses -- goes cracks the window and says in that case i'm going to sell my bonds. i have written on the book on lincoln as you know, now, out about a week and had interesting experiences. one of then i just had a kid. from what i can tell has
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conservative ting instincts. he's delighted to get the book. and it's wonderful. then he say, wait a minute, you wrote a book about lincoln. i thought you were a republican? [laughter] he meant this it wasn't a jive. he wasn't trying to get at me. this was a sincere inquiry. which i think tells us how much we need to do to save the true legacy of lincoln. that's i want to discuss with you a little bit tonight. because progressives have been after lincoln for about 100 years started with tr, fdr was intense on this. and barack obama has been even more intense; right? he announced for president and springfield before the old state house there. he takes the oath on the lincoln bible. i believe someone told me
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independently confirmed it he mentioned lincoln 230 sometime or something sin he was president. i think it's important to get lincoln right. if you get lincoln right, you get america right. you get what i believe should be our animating purpose as conservatives. by way of introduction they are common misconception of. we think of him as a man of the earth. the accidental president. the tribunal of the common people and common sense. i think it underestimates him. he wouldn't be surprised. it was a way he looked. the way he he said one in the white house he had the insight that god must love common looking people. he made more of them. he was common looking.
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but anyone who is judged him on the basis of his looks or thought any of those things i mentioned about him was making a grave mistake. this was a fear ambition man from the very youth, really. process of an exceptional and extraordinary intelligence. again, evidence from the time of his youth. people would report that he was curious about politics when he was young. he would borrow newspapers. when he would return them, he would be able to recite entire editorial line by line. an incredible memory. he had a wisdom about the world, a judgment about things and human nature. i love a little story he used to tell when he was trying to illustrate how if you try to change people's behavior on the
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promise of far off reward or on the threat of a something bad is going to happen to you. you're not going get very far. he used to say there was an arab -- arabmen -- irishmen who stole space. so you to pay for that when you met the end of your day and meet the maker. and the irishmen said in that case, if you are going to credit me that long, i think i'll take another. [laughter] lincoln, one of the reasons he knew so many about human nature. the kind of life he lead and how roughed up he was. he had the most inauspicious beginnings you can imagine. he was born in kentucky, moved to indiana, literally in the middle of nowhere, literally in a log cabin, and there are reports in that area that people who had log cabins at night when
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they had fires in cab bib they would see the shining eyes of bears peering in. there's a story about a little girl in the area was killed by a panther because her brother wasn't able to kill the panther with a hatchet to the skull fast enough. okay. this is not suburban bliss. this is a very unforgiving environment. lincoln said he had an axe put in the happened almost at once and handled that most useful instrument until about the age 23. one of the great irony of lincoln's life is that he didn't like axes. he didn't like splitting rails. even though we know him as the rail splitter. he wanted to escape this unforgiving environment. his mother, at the very young age, and aunt and uncle came down with something called milk sick. a cow would wander to the
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forest. eat poison weeds. the milk would become poisoned. you would drink the milk and die a horrible death in a week. it happens to his mom about 8 or so. he has to fashion the wood coffin with his father to bury her. there's no one to give the sermon. eventually someone, a minister happened by the area, you know, months later, and his sister would die in childbirth, which was not uncommon, and lincoln's family of upset about this. thought the inlaws didn't do enough to help her. the inlaws said, we wanted to help her, but the nearest doctor was too drunk to help her. which gives you an idea of the sway of -- way of life. lincoln said there was nothing to excite an ambition for negatives for education in this time and place. his mother signed her name with
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an x. his stepmother who was caring and a great blessing she signed her name with an x. his father could barely sign his name. lincoln said he could bungle his name. there were schools but a big part behalf instructors did was to beat the kids. okay. lincoln told a story in the white house thattured what -- captured what the educational environment was like. he said there was a school room of kids and reading from the book of danielle, you have 0st cast your mind back when it was legal to read the bible in the school room in america, and they are reading from the book and the one boy stumbles over the name. boom, hit up against the head.